Six CSB and SJU students receive awards from Fulbright Student Program

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May 6, 2019

Jessie Thwaites

Jessie Thwaites received an Austrian Fulbright-Marshall Plan Award (photo by Shannon Govern ’19).

2019 Fulbrights

Five students received Fulbright English Teaching Assistants awards. They are (front row, left to right) Marisela Weber, Jackson Erdmann and Danica Simonet, and (back row, left to right) Michael Thompson and Ali McGraw. Erdmann eventually declined his award. (Photo by Tommy O’Laughlin ’13).

What happens when you combine Minnesota Nice with the Old West spirit of Colorado?

You get six College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University students who received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

CSB senior Jessie Thwaites, a physics major from Littleton, Colorado, received an Austrian Fulbright-Marshall Plan Award for research in Graz, Austria. She applied to work at the Austrian Institute for Space Sciences and will be in Graz for nine months, beginning in September.

The remaining five students – CSB’s Ali McGraw, Danica Simonet and Marisela Weber and SJU’s Jackson Erdmann and Michael Thompson, who all hail from Minnesota – received Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETA) awards.

Thwaites said interested in research in magnetosphere space physics because of her background and interest in space physics.

“Science is increasingly becoming a global community, and I believe it is important develop connections within the international community,” she said.

“Space is by nature an international domain that requires international collaboration, and physicists in the field often work in international coalitions,” she wrote in her Fulbright application. “Through this experience, I hope to make professional connections that will be valuable to me in my future as a physicist.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program places recent college graduates as English Teaching Assistants in schools and universities overseas. The ETAs improve international students' English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities.

Since 2013, 35 students or graduates from CSB and SJU have earned Fulbright ETA awards.

McGraw, an elementary education major from Darwin, Minnesota, graduated from Litchfield High School. She will be teaching from September to June 2020 in Hamburg, Germany. “This program is important to me because it is giving me the opportunity to become more of a global citizen and an advocate for education,” she said.

Simonet, a peace studies and German double-major from Northfield, Minnesota, will also teach in Hamburg, Germany. She’s an old hand at traveling to Germany, most recently visiting the European country in December and January as part of the Extending the Link documentary team. “I hope to be completely fluent by the end of my year in Germany,” she said.

Weber, an English major from St. Paul, Minnesota, graduated from Roseville Area High School. She will teach from June to March 2020 in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. She visited India during the 2018 Extending the Link documentary work in the country. With that visit, “my admiration and appreciation for the country grew. I yearned to travel in order to learn more about India,” she said.

Don’t fear, SJU football fans. Erdmann, a senior global business leadership major from Rosemount, Minnesota, and the Johnnies’ starting quarterback, will play football in the fall before leaving for Malaysia in January. “I was looking at a couple of different (Fulbright) programs that had a start time in January, so it’s a good fit to my schedule,” he said.

Thompson, a senior biology major from Edina, Minnesota, will be teaching beginning in September in Greece. He’s also a repeat visitor to Greece, having been a part of the Greco-Roman study abroad program in fall 2017. “I am currently in an ancient mythology course, and I am looking forward to seeing the connections of mythology and history in Greece,” Thompson said. 

The six students are part of over 2,000 U.S. citizens who will conduct research, teach English and provide expertise abroad for the 2019-20 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright program has given more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, professionals and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2020-21 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch,  professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Lindsey Gutsch, Program Coordinator for Undergraduate Research, Competitive Fellowships and First-Year Experience.